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‘A NiceSub-AcidFeeling’: Schenker, Heidegger andElgar'sFirstSymphony

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Schenkerian analysis is a problematic tool for the analysis of early modernist music, not least because its deep-level theoretical and hermeneutic dependence on the Beethovenian heroic style is at risk of predefining the outline of a hermeneutics of other music. By bringing the Ursatz into contact with Martin Heidegger's concept of the Augenblick, it becomes possible to sever this restrictive hermeneutic link and also to open up a radically new possibility for background structures in late tonal music.

Elgar's First Symphony presents two considerable challenges to an orthodox Schenkerian reading. First, it is a prolongation of two strongly outlined tonalities - one immuring, the other immured - and second, its Kopfton remains static at the end of movements and does not descend structurally until the finale, thus prolonging a single Ursatz over an entire symphony. By aligning itself with Heidegger's analysis of the nature of human Being, a Heideggerian-Schenkerian analysis of the work illuminates Elgar's ‘play’ with the Beethovenian symphonic tradition, and demonstrates how he successfully manipulates his gigantic early modernist tonal structure.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Lecturer in Music at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is author of Edward Elgar, Modernist and a co-editor of Elgar Studies (both forthcoming from Cambridge University Press).

Publication date: October 1, 2005

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